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Well-Preserved Skeleton Recovered From Medieval Tomb

A skeleton
A skeleton Source: (Photo: Andres Tennus/University of Tartu)

A yet-to-be identified, intact, male skeleton has been excavated from a brick tomb at the Tartu Cathedral, despite archaeologists' initial worry that the tomb would be empty.

The tomb, dating back at least to the mid-16th century, was found in March during renovation work. Digging further to a depth of 1.8 meters, archaeologists found a skeleton buried in a decomposed wooden box, a statement from the University of Tartu said.

“We found no personal belongings with the deceased, but [we found] plenty of coffin nails and some rotten wood. We're hoping that further analysis will show us the type of wood the coffin was made of, and with that, the period of the interment,” said the university's archaeologist Martin Malve.

“We can currently say that the skeleton originates from the 13-15th century, when tombs were actively used for burials. The skeleton belonged to a man aged 40-50. Initial examination shows that the teeth were relatively unworn; there were a few teeth missing from when he was alive, as well as plaque and dental cavities. The right elbow [...] had a healed bone fracture that could have resulted from trying to stop a fall,” Malve said.

The skeleton is undergoing further analysis at the University of Tartu's human bones repository. The university's history museum, which is located at the site of the ruins of the Tartu Cathedral, hopes to put the find up on display by the end of summer.

The university's experts have previously said that the find is one of the rarest in Estonia.

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